They reached the back of the cemetery which was surrounded by an iron fence to keep the wilderness away from the dead. Or vice versa. The fence was about seven feet tall with arrow points at the tops of vertical iron bars. It looked medieval and brutal in the moonlight. JJ and Lila paused to take it in.
“There’s an opening to the right,” JJ whispered. He took Lila’s hand and they moved along the fence. A fetid sweet odor rose as they neared the opening. The grounds crew dumped the grass trimmings and grave flowers here and the moist smell of rot hung as the mound steamed in the moonlight. They paused again. “Have you gotten any signs yet,” he asked and squeezed Lila’s hand.
“I’m trying to ignore them,” she said. It was colder down here and she pushed closer to JJ. “Wow, look at that!”
JJ looked where she pointed and saw three deer in the clearing beyond the compost mound, along the fence, outside the cemetery. They were totally still and looking at JJ and Lila, some chastisement in their tense but placid gaze. They looked like constellations in the moonlight, eyes and white tails shining.
“Let’s get closer,” JJ said.
“No,” Lila whispered. “Don’t move. Give them space.”
“C’mon, let’s at least go in the gate.” He started moving to the opening and the deer started, twitched.
“You’re scaring them, they feel trapped.”
“C’mon,” JJ said and pulled Lila toward the gate. The deer all spun in place, looking for a way out of their graveyard cul-de-sac. Tangled undergrowth behind, dense and impenetrable. Iron fence on one side. Two people approaching in the middle of the escape route. “Stop,” Lila said and yanked JJ to a halt.
The first deer sprung nimbly over the fence into the cemetery and bolted out among the gravestones, followed by the second. The third deer, smaller, sprung to follow and his front legs cleared the tips of the iron rungs. But his belly came down on top of the fence and he was kicking his hind legs, panicked now and frantic. He screeched, the sound like the air released from a pinched balloon nozzle. He bucked and kicked, his head and fore legs tipping lower toward the ground on the cemetery side until gravity took over and he summersaulted into the cemetery and ran to follow the others. One of the iron points glistened wet in the moonlight.
They stood gaping in the sudden silence, stunned. “Why couldn’t you wait,” Lila moaned and moved away from JJ.
JJ stared at the spot where the deer had been stuck on the fence. It was cold and clammy here now, the mystery gone, the shadows ominous, the anticipation of being together turned to dread. This is how a cemetery becomes a graveyard, JJ thought. A graveyard for possibilities.
“Walk me back,” Lila said. The signs were not good.
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